Child-raising terms

This page is a list of terms used in Japan related to parental leave and child care.

It’s not an exhaustive or mistake-proof list, but I promise to keep the terms as accurate as possible, to the best of my abilities. If there are any additional terms you think need to be added, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll check them out. Thanks!

(Sorry, it’s not alphabetic at the moment. I’m adding terms as I use them in the blog posts.)

Japanese term (English gloss)


soumu-ka (General Affairs Office/Division)

ikujikyugyou (Child Raising Leave)

moushikomisho (application form)

jinjigakari-cho (Personnel Department Chief)

gakka-shuunin ((Faculty) Department Head)

meiwaku (literally, “trouble,” also “annoyance” or “inconvenience”)

kumi-ai (kind of a teacher’s union, but without the political power of a labor union)

haafu (a term used to indicate someone who has one Japanese parent and one non-Japanese parent, but particularly refers to those with a European/White or African/Black parent)

ri-nyu-shoku (basically means baby food; literally “separate from breast-feeding food”)

byouin (usually translated as “hospital,” but it can also mean “health center,” “clinic,” “private practice”…basically, anybody who has an MD can set up his or her own byouin even in a personal residence).

jibi-in-kouka (Ear-Nose-Throat Specialist, but usually means a clinic devoted to this, rather than a single person)

naika (Internal Specialist, but like Ear-Nose-Throat, this term again usually refers to a department or a separate institution. Probably the closest to a “general practitioner,” although naika doctors usually only deal with internal illnesses that are treatable without surgery. For example, if you break a rib, even though it’s “internal,” you’d probably wind up being referred to geka (External Specialist). There is no such thing as “General Practitioner” in Japan.

suku-suku sodatsu (an idiom usually translated as “growing quickly,” but also implies healthy growth for children)

so-dan (consultation, talk, or discussion)

inai-inai-ba (the game of “peekaboo,” literally “not here, not here, boo!)

yakkyoku (“pharmacy,” but most have special agreements to honor local hospital prescriptions and rarely get walk-in traffic)

kusuri-techo (a small handbook for keeping a record of prescription medicine from the yakkyoku)

hokensho (the Japanese national health care certificate required of all residents, a small rectangular piece of thin cardboard stock paper folded into small handbook size)

dassui (dehydration)

haki-dasu (vomit or throw up. The terms hakike (nausea) and haku (vomit) are also used.)

shingata (literally, “new type,” this term is used to describe any influenza strain outside the regular seasonal flu. The technical terms “H5N1” and “H1N1” are rarely used, but sometimes the more popular “Avian Flu” (tori-infuruenza) and “Swine Flu” (buta-infuruenza) are used in news reports.)

o-mutsu-koukan (literally, “diaper-changing.” The “o-” is an honorific prefix. Not sure why diapers merit an honorific prefix; maybe it makes the word sound less vulgar.)

tenkin (While the term means “job transfer” (or “posting,” or what have you), in Japan this is deeply ingrained in corporate culture. Major corporations and governmental departments and institutes typically transfer their employees to a different part of the country after a set period of time. The time depends on the company, but generally for national workers this can mean anywhere between two years to five years. Workers are typically transferred to their hometown area (sometimes city, sometimes prefecture, sometimes the general region) and after a set time period they are transferred back to where the main HQ is (usually Tokyo). Moving expenses for the entire family is usually paid, but when children get into junior or senior high school,  the family usually stops moving and only the worker moves (usually the father). The state of the father living separately from the family for the purposes of his job is called tanshin-funin and is still common in Japan.)

tamoku-teki-benjyo (literally, “multiple purpose like toilet,” a bathroom that is designed for use by elderly and the disabled, but also has a baby-changing table for families.)

kanai (literally, “house inside,” the term is used by many older Japanese men to refer to their wives. Nyoubou is also used, but only by those who want to sound like Natsume Soseki. Tsuma is used more commonly these days by younger Japanese.)

Okusan (literally, “honorable inside room,” means “your wife.” Japanese has different terms for family members depending upon whether you mean your family members or family members of someone else.)

ikujikyuugyou-kyuufu-jukyuushikaku-kakuninsho (育児休業給付受給資格確認票 — This one is quite a mouthful. Basically, it’s a form to confirm that you qualify to get 50% of your base salary until the child is 14 months old. The law used to be that you could only get this money until the child was 12 months old, but the law was recently revised to extend this by two months. The law used to state that 30% of the salary would come immediately, and the remaining 20% would show up in your account 90 days after you returned to work. In my case, I got a lump sum of 50% of one month of my base monthly salary. I took child care leave when my daughter was 11 months old; when she turned 14 months old, the law was revised. Great timing.)

wa-shitsu (often translated as “Japanese-style room,” this refers to any room that has a floor constructed out of tatami, or straw mats. Click here for a description in English of tatami. Modern Japanese hotels occasionally have tatami rooms, but they are becoming less and less common. Minshuku and ryokan (traditional Japanese vacation/guest homes) generally have only washitsu accommodations.)

kenshin (This term means “medical examination,” but for children basically it means a health check-up that occurs roughly every six months, depending on the prefecture or municipality. Thus, you see terms such as rokkagetsu kenshin (6-month check-up) and issai kenshin (first year check-up), among many others.)

shika kenshin (dental examination)

yuki-daruma (“Snowman” — although it literally means “Snow Daruma.” Daruma is the Japanese transliteration of the Buddhist zen monk Bodhidharma.)

hatsumode (The first trip of the New Year to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. There is a festival atmosphere, with food vendors and various forms of fortune-telling and good luck charms for the upcoming year.)

o-egaki (picture-drawing…the term is generally used only with children, hence the “o” in front of the phrase egaki, 絵書き).

yobou-sesshu (literally “preventative innoculation.” Sometimes the word wakuchin ワクチン is used for “vaccine.”)

san-kon (literally, “three mixed, i.e., the shot containing innoculation against diptheria, whooping cough, and tetanus).

shingata infuruenza (literally, “new type influenza,”  this term can refer to any of the non-seasonal flus. It’s most used for H5N1 (avian influenza, “bird flu,” also called tori infuruenza) and H1N1 (“swine flu,” buta infuruenza).

nyuen-shiki (entrance ceremony; technically, the “nyu” 入 means “enter” and the “shiki” 式 means ceremony. The “en” 園 means “kindergarten” or “nursery school,” in this case…this term changes depending on the institution, so an entrance ceremony for a higher level of school like high school would be “nyugaku-shiki” 入学式 and for a company “nyusha-shiki” 入社式)

hoikuen or hoikusho (public nursery schools tend to use “sho” 所 while private tend to use “en” 園, but the distinction is not always observed, and there is virtually no difference in how the schools are run…only in where the teacher salaries come from)

takujisho (literally, “entrusting infant place,” 託児所 usually a place that watches children for a few hours at a time, but sometimes used for private, “unofficial” daycares).

ninkahoikusho (認可保育所 officially approved nursery schools)

ninkagaihoikushisetsu (認可外保育施設 not officially approved nursery schools. Sometimes the term “muninkahoiku” 無認可保育 is also used, but the “muninka” part sounds rude, so cities tend to avoid using it.)

youchien (幼稚園 kindergarten. Kindergarten goes from age 3 to age 6 in Japan.)

kodomo-en (こども園). (A sort of combined daycare/nursery/kindergarten that just started in 2008. Locations are few and far between.)

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